Brutal Persecution of Lesbians under Nazi Regime – Rape, Beatings & Murders – Nazi Germany – WW2

Brutal Persecution of Lesbians under Nazi Regime Rape, Beatings & Murders Nazi Germany. During the Weimar Republic, German society experienced complex social, political, and cultural transformations. Meeting places advertised in a new lesbian press that emerged in the mid-1920s and lesbian journals also contributed to the growth of lesbian networks. Public discussions of sexuality had occurred in Germany since the late 19th century. Physician and sex researcher Magnus Hirschfeld as well as others organized gay and lesbian “friendship leagues”, which also included heterosexual members.

Large numbers of Germans were opposed to these public discussions of sex and sexuality. They viewed such debates as decadent, overly permissive, and immoral. Even before coming to power, many Nazis resented the visibility of gay and lesbian communities.

Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany on the 30th of January 1933.

Beginning in 1933, the Nazi regime began to harass gay and lesbian communities and individuals by shutting down and raiding their meeting places and organizations. By eliminating gay and lesbian gathering places and presses, the regime made it far more difficult for lesbians and gay men to connect with each other and the Nazis effectively dissolved the communities that had developed during the Weimar Republic.

Over the course of the 1930s, Nazi actions targeting male homosexuality became even more systematically oppressive. In 1935, the Nazi regime reformed Paragraph 175. The statute now criminalized any and all sexual intimacy between men.

Eventually, SS leader Heinrich Himmler took the lead in persecuting male homosexuality, which he called a “public scourge.” In 1936, Himmler created the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion.

However, the Nazi regime never criminalized sexual relations between women as it saw lesbians, first and foremost, as women. The Nazis believed that German women had a special task to perform: motherhood. They had a responsibility to give birth to racially pure Germans, called “Aryans.” The Nazis did not create any separate policies that singled out lesbians as a problem for Aryan procreation. Their reasoning drew on widespread attitudes about the differences between male and female sexuality. The Nazis concluded that Aryan lesbians could easily be persuaded or forced to bear children. During the Nazi regime, lesbians could not continue to live and socialize as they had during the Weimar Republic.

There were lesbians who joined underground anti-Nazi resistance groups or helped hide Jews.

Such was a case of Frieda Belinfante, a half-Jewish lesbian, who was a member of Dutch gay resistance group called the CKC.

The reason why some lesbians were arrested and sent to concentration camps was, that they were arrested as members of other groups such as Jews, Roma, asocials, political prisoners and professional criminals.

In lesbian prisoners’ paperwork, concentration camp authorities usually listed a racial, political, social, or criminal reason as the primary cause for their arrest. In a few cases, the authorities also noted their sexuality.

Such was a case of Henny Schermann, a Jewish lesbian from Germany. Sometimes their arrest had little or nothing to do with the fact that they were lesbians. At other times, their sexuality may have played a role. This was especially the case regarding arrests prompted by denunciations. Yet, denunciations could cause unwanted scrutiny for lesbians. To such women belonged Elli Smula and Margarete Rosenberg.

Between 5,000 and 15,000 men were imprisoned in concentration camps as “homosexual” offenders. This group of prisoners was typically required to wear a pink triangle badge sewn onto their camp uniforms. According to many survivor accounts, pink triangle male prisoners were among the most abused groups in the camps.

However, women who self-identified or were identified as lesbians did not wear the pink triangle. Same-sex relations in the camps could be shocking to other prisoners, who came from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. Homosexual prisoners rarely benefited from solidarity from the other prisoners, which for many camp inmates provided tools of survival, such as access to food and clothing.

To this day, it remains a research challenge to find historical sources related to lesbian experiences under the Nazi regime.

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